Home and a Surprise… The Ten Thousand Mile Bike Trek— End of Series

When I arrived at Lake Tahoe, I returned to what I considered my home territory. Half of the beauty of the area is found in the Lake, the other half is in the surrounding backdrop of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

When I arrived at Lake Tahoe, I returned to what I considered my home territory. Half of the beauty of the area is found in the Lake, the other half is in the surrounding backdrop of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

I had planned my six month, solo bike journey around North America as a great circular route, starting and ending in the small, rural town of Diamond Springs, which is nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range east of Sacramento. I grew up there, and the connection was important to me.

I had seen my journey as twofold. My primary purpose was to explore much of the US and Canada in a way few other people had. But I also wanted to use the opportunity to undertake an inward voyage, going back in time to explore my childhood and learn more about myself. Thus the Diamond Springs tie in.

The three-month trip Peggy and I made this spring allowed me to retrace my route and relive my 1989 experience. It also allowed me to share the journey with you, which I have done with 54 posts that included approximately 50,000 words and 1,000 photos: in even more words, that’s a lot! In the end, my North America bike trek had turned out to be everything that I hoped for, and much more. I had seen great beauty, met good people, and had numerous adventures— enough even for me.

Someday, I may share the inward journey. Suffice it to say here, I learned a lot about myself along the way. I achieved a balance and inner peace that have lasted up until today. I haven’t found myself teetering on the edge since 1989. I could run off and play in the woods for reasons other than to put Curt back together again.

But for now, let’s finish up the bike journey and discover the surprise at the end.

I left Carson City, Nevada following Highway 50 up and over Spooner Pass and then dropped into Lake Tahoe, arguably one of the world’s most beautiful lakes. Memories came flooding back. I had spent three college summers driving a laundry truck between Placerville and Lake Tahoe six days a week. The work was easy, the scenery beautiful and the money… well, it was enough to pay for my UC Berkeley education. (I only had to cover my living expenses, books and student fees. Those were the days when tuition at UC was still free, back in the days when government still believed that an investment in public education was one of the best investments it could make, back before it decided that making banks wealthy–er was more important.)

In 1974, I came up with the crazy idea that the organization I was Executive Director of in Sacramento could raise funds off of 9-day hundred mile backpack trips. Actually, I just wanted to go backpacking. The first one I led was from Squaw Valley, just northwest of Tahoe, across the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Auburn. I took 63 people aged 11-70 and learned a lot. (I’ll tell you the story some time.) Fortunately the Trekkers let me live, and the event made money. Later I would add 9-day, 500 mile Bike Treks. Several included Lake Tahoe. I even organized a 7-day winter cross-country ski and camping trek through the Desolation Wilderness west of the lake. That was an experience!

I feel a deep attachment to the Sierra's on the west side of Lake Tahoe, having backpacked up and down and across them many, many times over the years. I feel more at home there than I ever have in any city.

I feel a deep attachment to the Sierra’s on the west side of Lake Tahoe, having backpacked up and down and across them many, many times over the years. I feel more at home in these mountains than I ever have in any city.

This impressive rock greeted me as I biked down to the Lake from Sooner Pass.

This impressive rock greeted me as I biked down to the Lake from Sooner Pass.

The Casinos started a quarter of a mile beyond this lovely meadow!

The Casinos started a quarter of a mile beyond this lovely meadow! Nevada has done a much better job of controlling growth than California.

My bike trip took me along the east shore of the lake to Stateline where I biked past more casinos and entered California and El Dorado County, the county of my youth. Highway 50 wound through South Lake Tahoe and then over to Myers where I climbed my second 7000-foot pass of the day. I felt like I could have done it blind-folded. I was on my laundry route. Every curve, every sight was an old friend. Passing over Echo Summit, I had a wonderfully long downhill ride to Riverton and then climbed up once more to Pollock Pines, where I left Highway 50 and detoured through Camino. I found a small barbershop there and got my first haircut since Nova Scotia. I was a bit on the bushy side. There was a chance that they wouldn’t recognize me in Sacramento, especially if you threw in the fact that I had lost 40 pounds and now had big, bulging muscles.

The Sierra's are world renown for their granite. This view is from the southern portion of the Tahoe basin just before you begin to climb out of it toward Echo Summit.

The Sierras are world renown for their granite. This view is from the southern portion of the Tahoe basin just before you begin to climb out of it toward Echo Summit.

Because of my laundry days, I knew every curve (and straight-stretch) between Lake Tahoe and Placerville!

Because of my laundry days, I knew every curve (and straight-stretch) between Lake Tahoe and Placerville! Just beyond the small hill on the left is a major drop into a deep canyon.

Horse Tail Falls is one of many scenic views I appreciated on my laundry trips and on my bike ride down the mountains. I once crossed the river when it was roaring like this on a narrow log. It was raining and I was by myself. I got down and crawled.

Horsetail Falls is one of many scenic views I appreciated on my laundry trips and on my bike ride down the mountain. I once crossed the river up near the top on a narrow log when it was roaring like this. It was raining, I was by myself, and I was wearing a 50 pound pack. I got down on my knees and crawled.

Sugarloaf Mountain located next to Kyburz Resort on Highway 50 in El Dorado County, CA.

This wonderful chunk of granite is known as Sugarloaf and is another favorite view along Highway 50. It’s quite popular among rock climbers, which is another sport (like jumping off bridges), I see no reason to pursue.

A short five miles brought me to Placerville, where I lingered, not wanting my journey to end. I had gone to high school here and spent my teenage years in the town learning about life, love, sex, and books, not necessarily in that order. Eventually, I climbed back on my bike, picked up Highway 49, and biked 3 miles into Diamond. I jumped off my bike, dropped it, and did a jig with great enthusiasm. People must have thought I was extremely odd. And I was. My 10,000-mile North America Bike Trek was over.

The town of Placerville where I went to high school was once known as Hangtown and is quite proud of it's heritage. A large oak tree in the center of the town was used for hanging bad guys (and probably a few innocents) during the Gold Rush Era.

The town of Placerville where I went to high school was once known as Hangtown and is quite proud of its heritage. A large oak tree in the center of the town was used for hanging bad guys (and probably a few innocents) during the Gold Rush Era.

Hangman's Tree location in Placerville, CA.

The tree was cut down long ago but this rather ghoulish fellow (or his look-alike) has been hanging at the site where the tree was as far back as my memory takes me.

Speaking of evil-doers, you might want to check here to find out why the Placerville Police of Chief was driving me around in his squad car behind the courthouse featured here and wanted to know whether I preferred to go to my graduation from high school that night or go to jail.

Speaking of evil-doers, you might want to check here to find out why the Placerville Police of Chief was driving me around in his squad car behind the courthouse featured above, wanting to know whether I preferred  to spend my night graduating from high school or going to jail.

And finally, after riding my bike for 10,000 miles, I returned to Diamond.

And finally, after riding my bike for 10,000 miles, I returned to Diamond.

But my trip wasn’t quite over; I still had to bike into Sacramento.

I spent the night in Diamond and then rode along Highway 49 through the town, past the cemetery, past my old house, and on to Eldorado, following the same route I had six-months earlier. It felt like decades. In El Dorado, I left my route and followed back roads into Sacramento. I had a Trek-planning meeting that night at the Lung Association. My friend Jane Hagedorn, the Executive Director, had lured me back into town with the promise of Treks. I wheeled my bike into the office at 909 12th street and was greeted royally by Raquel, Jane’s executive secretary, a woman I had hired in 1974.

“Where’s Jane?” I asked, eager to see my friend. “She’s on an important phone conference call,” Raquel answered. The door to her office was closed. I had turned around, a bit disappointed, when a woman I didn’t know came bursting out of one of the offices. Wow, I thought, she’s gorgeous. She gave me a lovely smile that warmed me from my head to my toes, and everywhere in between.

“Hi,” she greeted me, grabbing my hand. “I am Peggy, Jane’s sister. You have to be Curtis! I’ve been hearing stories about you for years.” I swear— I fell in love— then and there.

A new journey had begun.

Last week, Peggy and I celebrated 24 years of marriage and 26 years of happily wandering the world together.

A 1993 photo of Peggy one year after we had married. Always up for an adventure, she had just finished a 150 mile backpack trip down the John Muir Trail I had led. More to the point she had just finished hiking a 16 mile day with a 40 pound pack up and over Mt. Whitney that had included 9000 feet of elevation gain and loss. And she was still smiling!

A 1993 photo of Peggy at 43 one year after we had married. Always up for an adventure, she had just finished a 150 mile backpack trip down the John Muir Trail I had led to celebrate my 50th birthday. More to the point she had just finished hiking a 16 mile day with a 40 pound pack up and over Mt. Whitney that had included 9000 feet of elevation gain and loss. And she was still smiling!

Peggy celebrating the end of re-tracing my bike route at the Diamond Springs hotel. She had driven our RV the whole way so I could take photos and notes. Still smiling!

Peggy celebrating the end of re-tracing my bike route at the Diamond Springs Hotel. She had driven our RV the whole way so I could take photos and notes. Still up for an adventure, still smiling and still gorgeous at 65!

NEXT BLOG: Meet Petros, the world’s most famous pelican. A blog quickie!

 

On Hearing Voices in the Desert: Nevada… The 10,000-Mile Bike Trek

Early prophets headed into the desert to seek guidance and find their gods. Living in the harsh environment served as a sacrifice. Being totally alone in deep silence of the desert meant they had only themselves to listen to. It was easy to hear the whispers and voices of their inner selves, and possibly something else, ancient voice reverberation down through time.

Early prophets headed into the desert to seek guidance and find their gods. Living in the harsh environment served as a sacrifice. Being totally alone in the deep silence of the desert meant they had only themselves to listen to. It was easy to hear the whispers and voices of their inner-selves, and possibly something else, ancient voices reverberating down through time.

 

Have you ever heard someone talking to you when no one is around? The mental health folks call this experience an auditory hallucination. If you do it a lot, people start worrying about you. Words like mania or schizophrenia are thrown around. Professional advice is sought, straitjackets purchased. Fortunately, it has only happened to me twice: the first time when I was out backpacking, the second when I was bicycling across the Nevada desert on my 10,000-mile bike trek.

The first occasion I found rather humorous. I was backpacking with my Basset Hound, Socrates. (It should be noted that anyone who backpacks with a Basset Hound is already mildly insane.) Soc was off chasing some imaginary beast in the woods— his deep, hound-bark reverberating through the surrounding mountains. I was meditating using my favorite mantra, ‘goat.’ Don’t ask.

The session was progressing well. I had quieted my ever-noisy mind; colors were taking on intensity, the forest becoming alive, and Soc’s bark sounding like a Beethoven Sonata. That’s when it happened. A clear voice out of nowhere spoke to me.

“Talk to me, damn it!”

Now you can’t make this up. It’s too weird. Apparently, the inner me wanted words to munch on, not silence. It’s used to my constant nattering. So it broke into my conscious mind, took possession of me, and made a demand. I could only laugh. I went back to meditating but it was hopeless. (If you want to hear the rest of my story about backpacking with Socrates, go here. It’s a very 70’s type of tale.)

People who are really serious about hearing voices, however, go off to the desert and hang out for 40 days, or years. Saints and other holy people have been doing this for millennia. Big, booming voices tell them to go off and save the world, or take dictation, or whip themselves. Piddly things like “Talk to me, damn it!” are never heard.

Rocks are one thing that prophets find in abundance when they head off into the desert. They are great for caves; the ideal home for self-sacrificing god-seekers.

Rocks are one thing that prophets find in abundance when they head off into the desert. They are great for caves: an ideal home for those eager to live in misery.

Nevada is totally filled with rocks. I am actually surprised it hasn't produced any prophets.

Nevada is totally filled with rocks. I am actually surprised it hasn’t produced any prophets (that I know of).

More Nevada rocks.

More Nevada rocks. Possibly three wise men, or three aliens?

And more rocks.

And more rocks.

The Nevada desert fully qualifies as a place to get messages. It’s full of vast amounts of nothingness and rattlesnakes and jackrabbits and dust devils and rocks and UFOs and sagebrush and casinos. A common message people receive is, “You’re bank account is empty.” I don’t think that the state has produced any saints. Characters, on the other hand, are a dime a dozen. It’s my kind of place. I’ve crisscrossed it many times.

I've often thought about the people who choose to live their lives isolated from others. What kind of a person does it take to make such a choice? What does living out here do to a person?

I’ve often thought about the people who choose to live their lives isolated from others. What kind of a person does it take to make such a choice? What does living out here do to a person? Something about the choice resonates with me. I did, after all, choose to go on a six month bike ride by myself.

thunder-mountain-monument

Nevada is filled with wonderful characters. One was Frank Van Zant who heard voices that directed him to go off and build this structure along Interstate 80. Known as the Thunder Mountain Monument, Zant built it as a haven for spiritual seekers (hippies) of the 70s, and as a reminder of how we have mistreated Native Americans.

I entered the state on my bicycle following Idaho/Nevada 93. I knew that I had arrived when I spotted the casinos. (There are very few ways that you can enter the state without finding at least one, and often several.) They were a welcome sight, being the only place I could get a snack and refill my water bottles on my hundred-mile ride from Twin Falls to Wells. I even donated five dollars in quarters to improving Nevada’s economy.

It really has to be a remote road that enters Nevada without a casino present. Highway 93 isn't nearly remote enough!

It really has to be a remote road that enters Nevada without a casino present. Highway 93 isn’t nearly remote enough!

Highway 93 connecting Twin Falls, Idaho with Wells, Nevada featured this view. It reminded me of how beautiful Nevada is.

Highway 93 connecting Twin Falls, Idaho with Wells, Nevada featured this view of what I believe is the Humboldt Range or Ruby Mountains. It reminded me of how beautiful Nevada is.

Another view. Nevada is part of the Great Basin and is made up of several ranges with basins between. During the winter and into early summer, these ranges are often covered with snow.

Another view. Nevada is part of the Great Basin and is made up of several ranges with basins between. During the winter and into early summer, these ranges are often covered with snow.

In Wells, I picked up Interstate 80, one of America’s major East-West routes. I had been dreading this part of my journey. For well over 9000 miles I had been travelling on America and Canada’s back roads whenever possible and busier two lane highways when forced to. Now I would be riding on a four-lane freeway packed with a high percentage of the nation’s cross-country 18-wheelers. My only option was to detour to the south and pick up Highway 50, known as America’s “Loneliest Highway” as it crosses Nevada. It sounded great, but I was out of detour time. So I bit the proverbial bullet— and was happily surprised.

A constant line of traffic heading west on I-80.

A constant line of traffic heading west on I-80.

You can see almost anything traveling along I-80. Peggy and I were amused with this pick up load of squished porta-potties. I had my doubts about how they were fastened down.

You can see almost anything traveling along I-80. Peggy and I were amused with this pick up load of squished port-a-potties. I had my doubts about how they were fastened down. I pictured seeing them on my bike trip with the rope breaking. News Flash: Biker killed by flying port-a-potty. What an epitaph that would make!

The surprise was that I-80 has great shoulders. There were also occasional breaks in the traffic.

The surprise was that I-80 has great shoulders. There were also occasional breaks in the traffic.

The freeway has great shoulders. I could ride along and totally ignore the traffic. In time, the freeway noise even faded away. There was nothing but the desert, distant horizons and me. There weren’t even any cows to talk with, at least not many. I was free to meditate— and hear voices.

Cows to talk with were few and far between.

Cows to talk with were few and far between.

When the voice came, it was the booming type, not the silent whisper you hear in the back of your mind on occasion that suggests you really shouldn’t do something you have every intention of doing. It caught me off guard and scared me. I probably should have listened. Maybe I would have learned something, like to go home and build an ark. But I shut it down. I’m not crazy, and I had forgotten to bring my rose-colored glasses. Besides, I had no desire to become the first prophet to arise out of the Nevada desert (a scary thought), or end up in a straitjacket.

A couple of days later I did have a bit of a revelation, though. Maybe it was even related to the booming voice, or not. I’d left Sacramento with a lot of questions that could be traced all the way back to my youth and even DNA. To say I was restless is a massive understatement. While I had worked hard and had my share of success, I considered work an interlude between adventures. And my adventures were as much about running away as they were about my unending desire to explore new areas. My experience with relationships was similar. I’d had several since my divorce in 1976, and they had all been with good women, people who would have made great life-companions. But I had no desire to settle down and get married, much less have a family.

Something clicked in my mind out there in the middle of the Nevada desert, however. Maybe it was the result of sitting on the back of a bicycle by myself for six months. There was a lot of time to think, and a lot of alone time. I had a strong, clear thought that felt right to me. I could wander and explore without ‘running away.’ It was okay to go home and enter a serious relationship. It would be okay to get married again. It would be okay to have a family. I even went as far as thinking about the women I had dated over the past several years. As I said, they were good people, but I doubted that any of them had a sense of humor about my desire to wander. A week, yes, or even a month, but six months or a year? No way. I needed a companion who liked to wander as much as I did.

The rest of my trip across the desert was tame in comparison. I spent a lot of time going up and down. Nevada is basin and range country. I was constantly climbing up ranges and racing into basins. Towns were relatively close together and each one came with a number of casinos featuring inexpensive and plenteous food. My pure life of the open-road quickly deteriorated. I caught a bad casino cold as a result, after not having a touch of anything for six months. Eventually I hit Highway 95, the cutoff to Fallon where I picked up Highway 50 and cycled into Carson City. The Sierra Nevada Mountains loomed before me. The next day I would cross them, and then head home.

Leaving Interstate 80 toward Fallon, Nevada I entered what is known as the 40 mile desert, which was a nightmare for early pioneers crossing in wagon trains.

Leaving Interstate 80 toward Fallon, Nevada I entered what is known as the 40 mile desert, which was a nightmare for early pioneers crossing in wagon trains. An 1850 survey found 1061 dead mules, 5000 dead horses, 3750 dead cattle, and 953 graves along the route.

Highway 50 between Fallon and Carson provided a gentler view of the desert.

Highway 50 between Fallon and Carson City provided a gentler view of the desert.

And signs to watch out for wild horses.

And signs to watch out for wild horses crossing the road.

As I entered the Carson Valley, the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range loomed up before me. I was approaching the end of my journey. I was approaching home.

As I entered the Carson Valley, the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range loomed up before me. I was approaching the end of my journey. I was approaching home.

NEXT BLOG: I finish my 10,000 mile journey and return home. A surprise is waiting that will change my life.

Jumping into and across the Snake River Canyon of Idaho… The 10,000-Mile Bike Trek

When Peggy and I arrived at the bridge across the Snake River, a man was hanging by his fingers on the edge of the bridge, 500 feet above the water.

When Peggy and I arrived at the Perrine Bridge across the Snake River, a man was hanging by his fingers on the edge, 500 feet above the water.

I biked out of Bozeman, Montana facing another climb across the Rockies. It turned out to be surprisingly easy. And beautiful. Highway 191 follows the scenic Gallatin River with its rushing waters up into the northwestern corner of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Snowmelt during June turns this branch of the Missouri River into a seething whitewater-fantasy trip for rafters. Beyond its beauty and rapids, the river is also known for its world-class fly-fishing.

Snow melt turns the Gallatin River of Montana into a river runner's dream.

Snow melt turns the Gallatin River of Montana into a river runner’s dream.

Cliffs along the Gallatin River on Montana's Highway 191 add to the areas scenic beauty.

Cliffs along the Gallatin River on Montana’s Highway 191 add to the area’s scenic beauty.

Trees along the Gallatin River on Montana's Highway 191.

As does the forest.

Fly fisherman try their luck in the upper waters of the Gallatin River in Wyoming's Yellowstone Park.

Fly fishermen try their luck in the upper waters of the Gallatin River in Wyoming’s Yellowstone Park.

By the time I had biked the route in August of 1989, the river had ceased its mighty roar but held onto its scenic beauty. Things were still roaring when Peggy and I drove up it in June as we re-traced my route. We stopped to admire the rapids and watch rafters. In the town of West Yellowstone, Peggy relived her youth by trying to find a bar she had once visited with a fake driver’s license in the early 70s.

She had obtained a summer job as a waitress in Yellowstone Park between her freshman and sophomore year at Mary Baldwin College in Virginia. (Mary Baldwin, once a finishing college for Southern Belles, was trying to make its way into the 20th Century. Peggy, a Northerner from Ohio, was much more interested in obtaining an education than becoming a ‘lady,’ and had only lasted for two years before transferring to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. UT included certification for working with the hearing impaired as part of its curricula, which was where she wanted to focus.)

In the meantime, Yellowstone had provided a welcome reprieve from Mary Baldwin— plus first love. Between waitressing at the park’s lodge and watching Old Faithful shoot towering plumes of water skyward, Peggy had discovered Bill, who definitely wanted to show her a good time. Part of this had included the trip into West Yellowstone and barhopping with a fake driver’s license.

My bike route followed Highway 20 out of West Yellowstone up and over the Continental Divide at the 7072-foot Targhee Pass, which also served as the border of Idaho. From here on, rivers would be flowing into the Pacific Ocean. I continued on Highway 20 down to Rexburg following Henry’s Fork of the Snake River and then made my way west on Highways 33 and 93 to the Craters of the Moon National Monument.

Henry's Fork flows into the Snake River, which flows into the Colombia River and then into the Pacific Ocean. I had left the great Mississippi-Missouri River drainage system behind.

Henry’s Fork flows into the Snake River, which flows into the Colombia River and then into the Pacific Ocean. I had left the great Mississippi-Missouri River drainage system behind.

The mountains of central Idaho loomed in the distance above what was probably a potato farm near Rexburg.

The mountains of central Idaho loomed in the distance above what was probably a potato farm near Rexburg.

Idaho's Highway 33 seemingly stretches on forever as so many roads did during my 10,000 mile bike trek around North America.

Idaho’s Highway 33 seemingly stretches on forever as so many roads did during my 10,000 mile bike trek around North America.

Pickle's Place is one of many delightfully unique restaurants I found along the road. Located in Arco, Idaho (once known as Root Hog) it features the Atomic Burger in honor of the fact that Arco was the first place in the world to be lit with atomic power.

Pickle’s Place is one of many delightfully unique restaurants I found along the road. Located in Arco, Idaho (once known as Root Hog), it features the Atomic Burger in honor of the fact that Arco was the first place in the world to be lit with atomic power.

This mountain next to Arco features the local high school's graduating classes going back to the early 1900s.

This mountain next to Arco features the local high school’s graduating classes going back to the early 1900s.

The Craters of the Moon National Monument encompasses a wonderfully weird lava flow on the Snake River Plain that covers 618 square miles and was formed between 15,000 and 2,000 years ago. Early astronauts, including Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell, had arrived here on August 29, 1969 to practice future landings on the moon— one month after Neil Armstrong had already taken his “one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”

Idaho's Highway 93 winding its way through the northern part of Craters of the Moon National Monument, seemingly disappears here.

Idaho’s Highway 93, winding its way through the northern part of Craters of the Moon National Monument, seemingly disappears here.

Nature, in her marvelous way, is gradually reclaiming the volcanic landscape.

Nature, in her marvelous way, is gradually reclaiming the volcanic landscape. Sagebrush is the most obvious plant in the area.

Flowers at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho.

But Peggy and I also found these flowers.

Dead sagebrush at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho.

As well as this stark but beautiful reminder of how difficult it is to reclaim lava.

Art in the Park sculpture in Craters of the moon National Monument in Idaho.

This sculpture added a colorful touch to the monument.

Sculpture in Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho.

I also liked this perspective, which seemed to capture the strangeness of the monument. A small-explorer’s foot can be seen on the right.

From Craters of the Moon, it was a short 80-mile ride to the Snake River and Twin Falls over relatively flat country. The river features a dramatic 500 feet deep canyon, which was created by cascading water from melting glaciers. When Peggy and I arrived, a man was dangling on the edge of the Perrine Bridge by his fingers, ready to leap into the canyon (featured at top of this post). Fortunately he had a parachute on. Still, he plummeted for 200 feet or so before engaging it. Scary stuff.

Perrine Bridge across the Snake River near Twin Falls, Idaho.

See the shadow on the river. It’s made by the parachute, the small triangle located center-left above the shadow.

Snake River looking west from the Perrine Bridge overlook.

This view of the Snake River is looking west from the overlook next to the Perrine Bridge. Boats have created the wakes.

When I crossed the bridge on my bike in 1989, I was thinking of another leap across/into the canyon— that of Evel Knievel in 1974. Evel, at the time, was synonymous with the word daredevil. During his life he made some 275 motorcycle jumps over cars, busses, and trucks. Fifteen of the jumps involved spectacular accidents. He suffered numerous concussions and shattered his pelvis three times. Overall, he broke 35 bones. Maybe he should have pursued a much tamer sport, such as playing NFL football.

Knievel was always on the lookout for new ways to upgrade his act, obtain more publicity, and increase his income. Mainly this involved adding more vehicles to leap (for a number of years, he held the world record of 19 cars), but he also had a dream of jumping the Grand Canyon. Concerns with National Park regulations, however, eventually led him to the Snake River. The 1700-foot jump was a bit long for his Harley, though, and this is where Robert Truax came into the picture.

Truax was one of America’s premier, pioneer rocket engineers, beginning his career prior to World War II when a childhood interest in Robert Goddard led him to build rockets at his home in Alameda, California. He then went on to work with the Navy on rocket development during World War II and later helped build both the Thor and Polaris missiles. By the late 50s/early 60s, he had left the military and was heading up Aerojet-General’s advanced rocket development division in Sacramento, California. I met the man when I promised him I would have his daughter home by midnight.

Kathleen (Kathy) Truax was a dark-haired beauty with brains to match. She had transferred into El Dorado Unified High School in Placerville during my senior year. After graduation, I had worked up the nerve to ask her out on a date to the California State Fair in Sacramento. Her immediate “yes” had me kicking myself for not asking sooner.

The weekend turned into a marathon. I had worked ten hours on Friday hauling 50-pound boxes of pears out of an orchard and then gone to a party at a friend’s. My mother called at midnight to tell me that the forest service had just phoned wanting me to help fight a raging forest fire that was threatening to engulf the small foothill community of Foresthill. So away I had gone and spent from 2 a.m. until 10 a.m. chopping a fire trail across a steep American River canyon with a heavy pickaxe. The looming inferno encouraged fast work.

After a two-hour nap break and lunch, our crew chief had told us that the fire was burning back on itself and that we could leave if necessary. I’d buzzed home to Diamond Springs, showered, and taken off for Cameron Park where I picked up Kathy in my 54 Chevy, met her dad, and gone on to the State Fair. I returned her home promptly at midnight as promised. We’d had fun and I had won Kathy a large stuffed bear that hardly fit in the back seat.

Later that summer, we had gone on a date up into the Sierra foothills near Pleasant Valley where her grandmother lived. Kathy had told me that her dad shot off rockets in the area that he had built in his garage. His visionary dream was to build inexpensive rockets that would make space travel affordable for everyone. Eventually, 13 years after the summer I had dated Kathy, that dream would lead him to build the Volksrocket (Skycycle X3) designed to carry Evel Knievel across the Snake River Canyon. The rocket had worked fine, but the parachute had malfunctioned, deploying when the rocket took off, which allowed the wind to pull it back into the canyon. Evel had landed on the river’s edge with minimal injuries (for him), and Truax had taken responsibility for the accident.

While Knievel died in 2007 and Truax in 2010, their dream was finally realized on September 16th of this year. Professional Hollywood stuntman Eddie Braun working with Truax’s son Scott used an exact replica of the Skycycle X3 with a well-tested parachute to successfully jump the canyon. Children of both Knievel and Truax were there to witness the event. Had Peggy and I been a couple of months later in our route review, we would have been there as well.

Looking east up the Snake River from the Perrine Bridge toward where Evel Knievel tried his 1974 leap across the river.

Looking east up the Snake River from the Perrine Bridge toward where Evel Knievel tried his 1974 leap across the river.

NEXT BLOG: I bicycle across Nevada and hear voices. Seriously. Were the desert gods trying to tell me it was time to end my journey?

We Interrupt Thanksgiving to Bring You a Message…. the Turkeys

We, the United Turkeys of America, have a message for you.

We, the United Turkeys of America, have a message for you.

Just because we stick our necks out, doesn't mean we want them chopped off.

Just because we stick our necks out, doesn’t mean we want them chopped off. Besides, we walk around on two legs just like you. Eating things with four legs or no legs is better.

We believe that you would be much better off eating cow or pig or sheep or something slimy for Thanksgiving— or any other time. We know that you are bright, caring, loving human beings who will listen to our reasons, that you are not like Dumb Tom who seems to have problems with where he should stick his head.

Dumb Tom, in the rear, so to speak.

Dumb Tom, in the rear, so to speak.

So listen up folks… Here are four reasons why there should not be a turkey on your platter:

We are tough.

See the glint in my eye. That's a 'don't mess with me glint.'

I am one big, mean, fighting machine!

That's a 'don't mess with me glint' in my eyes.

That’s a ‘don’t mess with me glint’ in my eyes.

We are pretty.

Really, can you think of anyone more beautiful than we are?

Really, can you think of anyone more beautiful than we are? Now if we can just persuade the girls…

We are cultured, we dance!

The fan dance...

The fan dance…

The Conga line.

The Conga line…

The Tango...

The Tango…

Ballet...

The ballet… Check out the toes!

And for the respected elders out there: "Me and my shadow, dancing down the avenue."

And for the respected elders out there: “Me and my shadow, dancing down the avenue.”

We are native, Native Americans.

Long before Europeans came to America we were here, as ancient rock art attests to.

Long before Europeans came to America we were here, as this ancient rock art attests to. In fact, we are even more native than the Natives.

Wow, we are so pretty!

Gobble, gobble. Gobble, gobble, gobble. Translated: Eat snake, that’s what I am doing.

So, my friends…

In closing, I would like to recommend: Eat tofu.

In closing, I would like to make one final recommendation: Eat tofu.

A very Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family from Peggy and me. PS… We will be eating turkey. Don’t tell the flock.

 

 

Oh Deer!… Another Quickie

Deer looks in door of Curt and Peggy Mekemson's home on Upper Applegate River in Southern Oregon.

Anybody home? A deer looks in our screen door. We are glad we don’t have a door bell. The deer would likely use it— constantly.

 

It’s time for another quickie: A break from my bike six-month bike trip with a little humor to counter our serious times.

I’ve blogged before that a deer herd actually owns our property on the Applegate River in Southern Oregon. They take their rent in apples. If they aren’t paid on time, they come and stare in our windows— our front windows, our side windows, our back windows, and our bedroom windows. Or they eat Peggy’s flowers. She always runs out to discuss the matter with them. They think she is just being polite, asking them how the flowers taste. Or they deny that they have been eating the flowers at all.

A nosy neighbor. If one window doesn't work, the deer go around our house, peering in each window.

A nosy neighbor. If one window doesn’t work, the deer go around our house, peering in each window.

Come on! I know you are in there.

Come on! I know you are in there.

Deer sniffs flower for edibility in the Applegate Valley of Oregon.

Mmmm, is this edible. Checking out a daffodil. Peggy is constantly searching for plants the deer won’t eat. Daffodils are one, but that doesn’t stop the deer from biting the flower off and spitting it out.

A thorny issue. This deer is receiving a lecture from Peggy about not eating her rose bush. Check out that stance!

I have not been eating your roses! A thorny issue. This deer is receiving a lecture from Peggy about not eating her rose-bush. Check out that stance of rightful indignation!

Buck lips lips after eating an apple.

Wow, that apple tasted like I want another one! Always.

Deer licks lips.

Me too! (We get to see the deer in all stages of development. The first buck above had fully grown antlers. This guy was just beginning. Bucks lose their antlers in late winter/early spring and have grown another set by mating season.)

When they aren’t eating, which is what they do most of the time, they do other deer things: fight, mate, have babies, raise their kids, groom each other, sleep, and lie around chewing their cuds. Since we are a part of the herd, more or less, we are invited to witness all of these things. Sometimes it can get a little hairy, like when a doe ran behind me when a lust-driven buck was chasing her…

Pregnant doe sleeping on back porch in Oregon.

Okay, already! I’ve been pregnant long enough. Women can probably feel great empathy for this pregnant doe who couldn’t seem to get comfortable sleeping on our back porch.

Soaking in the sun and chewing their cuds. It isn't unusual to have several deer sleeping around our house. When Peggy and I arrived home after redrawing my bike route this summer, it was like the deer had taken over.

Soaking in the sun and chewing their cuds. It isn’t unusual to have several deer lying around outside our house. When Peggy and I arrived home after re-driving my bike route this summer, it was like the deer had taken over.

You know how it is with families. Even though you have seen pictures of the kids once, you are bound to see them again— and again. It used to be that mother or grandmother (and occasionally dad/granddad would whip out her/his wallet and show you one or two. Now they whip out their smart-phone and show you 40 or 50.🙂 I’ll conclude with some of the kids from around our place. Odds are you will see them again.

Lean on me. Any parent/grandparent is more than willing to whip out pictures of their cute kids/grandkids/pets, etc. It used to be out of the wallet. Now it is on the the phone... or social media.

Lean on me. This fawn was so young it still had shaky legs and was leaning up against its mom for support.

Fawn in Applegate Valley of Oregon.

A real cutie who is all legs!

Did you remember to wash your ears? I never get tired of watching deer groom each other. They do it all the time.

Did you remember to wash your ears? I never get tired of watching deer groom each other. They do it all the time. This is a mutual effort.

Young blacktail buck with tiny horns in the Applegate Valley of southern Oregon.

And then there are the teenagers. I call this fellow Little-Buck. He, his sister and mom stop by daily and visit. He has high hopes for his small antlers.

Here he is checking out my camera this morning. Next Blog: Join me as I finish my ride in Montana and bike through Idaho.

Is it edible? Here he is checking out my camera this morning. Next Blog: Join me as I finish my bike ride in Montana and head into Idaho.

 

I Know I Am in Montana; The Question Is Where? … The 10,000-Mile Bike Trek

They call it Big Sky Country for a reason. The heavens seem to stretch on forever. But the enormity of the sky is matched by the state's mountains and rivers and valleys. Even this single tree has a statement to make.

They call it Big Sky Country for a reason. The heavens seem to stretch on forever. But the enormity of the sky is matched by the state’s mountains and rivers and valleys. Even this single tree has a statement to make.

I don’t really know if you can make a wrong turn in Montana. Almost everywhere you go the skies are big, the mountains high, the rivers clear, and the views forever. With that said, I am not 100% sure about my bike route through the state. For most of my 10,000-mile journey I had maps, or my journal, or letters, or even just logic to retrace my route of 27 years ago. Many of the roads I traveled down were the only roads available or at least the only roads I could use and get where I wanted to go without a major detour.

And often there were significant events that reminded me where I traveled. Many of the views I saw in Montana could have played this role— except those views were just about everywhere. The two events I do recall happened on my first day. One, I bicycled 120 miles with the elusive tailwind I had hoped for in North Dakota. Two, I found a restaurant that offered a free pancake to anyone who could eat the whole thing. It was a yard across, two inches deep and took the whole griddle to cook. I passed. But I watched a giant consume one and go on to eat a second. I thought he deserved a standing ovation, but hesitated with the thought that he might not like standing ovations. I try not to irritate mountains.

But my memory aids were unavailable for Montana. Still, I know most of my route. About 250 miles are in contention, which in Montana isn’t a big deal. Now if I were talking Rhode Island or Delaware… Anyway, if you are a map fiend, I either traveled from Malta on Highway 2 to White Sulphur Springs, or from Havre on Highway 2 to White Sulphur Springs. Both seem logical choices. Since the former route came first, Peggy and I drove it. Sections seemed quite familiar. Others not so much. One of these days, I will go back and start from Havre. Anyway, here are some views Peggy and I saw along the way.

Another perspective on Big Sky Country. This one along US Highway 2 as it makes its way through northern Montana.

Another perspective on Big Sky Country. This one along US Highway 2 as it makes its way through northern Montana.

Fence showing Montana cattle brands at Culbertson, Montana museum.

If ever there was a modern catch phrase in the writing, art, and business world, it is “branding.” Over and over we hear about how important it is that we establish our own unique voice or product. Well, there was a time when the concept of branding was a lot simpler.🙂 We found this fence at a small museum in Culbertson, Montana. These are cattle brands from the region.

Cow weathervane found at museum in Culbertson, Montana.

We also found this fun weather vane at the Culbertson Museum. Somehow, it reminds me of the recent election. (grin)

Old beauty parlor hair curlers on display at Culbertson, Montana, Museum.

Another photo from the Culbertson museum and another bit of post-election humor: After the election, Mrs. B decided to head for the beauty parlor to have her hair done— and her brain rearranged. (Move on Curt.)

Whoa! Another roadside attraction.

Whoa! Another roadside attraction. Dinner? We came on this unlikely pair along with another  20 acres of other such creatures along Highway 2. There was no sign to tell us why they were there.

Sign for the Malta, Montana museum.

Here’s a cowboy with high hopes, “high in the sky apple pie hopes.” The Native American is saying, “Go get him guy. I’m behind you all the way.”

Peggy and I came across this derelict old house with its life-affirming message along Highway 2. It's a great message for these troubled times from a poem by Sam Walter Floss: "Let me live in a house beside the road/ Where the race of men go by/ The men who are good and the men who are bad/ As good and bad as I/ I would not sit in the scorner’s seat/ Nor hurl the cynic’s ban/ Let me live in a house by the side of the road/ And be a friend to man."

Peggy and I came across this old house with its life-affirming message along Highway 2. It’s a great message for these troubled times from a poem by Sam Walter Floss: “Let me live in a house beside the road/ Where the race of men go by/ The men who are good and the men who are bad/ As good and bad as I/ I would not sit in the scorner’s seat/ Nor hurl the cynic’s ban/ Let me live in a house by the side of the road/ And be a friend to man.”

Petroglyph from Sleeping Buffalo Rock along Highway 2 in Montana.

Another Highway 2 site featured the Sleeping Buffalo Rock covered with carved petroglyphs. This symbol is usually interpreted to represent a badger.

US Highway 191 in Montana

In Malta, Peggy and I picked up US Highway 191, which runs from the Canadian Border to Mexico. Unlike most of America’s historic north-south/east-west blue highways, 191 is a combination of many north-south roads that were put together in the 80s.

Another view of Montana countryside along Highway 191

Another view of Montana countryside along Highway 191.

A Montana stream found along US Highway 191.

A calm stream…

The Missouri River in Montana along US Highway 191

And the mighty Missouri River— Montana style.

Cattle roundup in Montana.

This is Montana! Cowboys and cattle. Two cowboys rode horses, and one is using an ATV.

Tempting! A trout contemplates a lure in a Lewiston, Montana mural.

Tempting! A trout contemplates a fly in a Lewiston, Montana mural.

I found this town fun. The high school looms in the background. The vote for the 2015 commencement speaker was unanimous. Dakota Jolliff asked her uncle to give the address. She was the only senior. The principal lives across the road from the school. First thing in the morning during winter storms, she looks out her window. If she can't see the school, classes are canceled. The school is also haunted. Lights are turned on at night and locked doors opened.

I found this town fun. The high school looms in the background. The vote for the 2015 commencement speaker was unanimous. Dakota Jolliff asked her uncle to give the address. She was the only senior. The principal lives across the road from the school. First thing in the morning during winter storms, she looks out her window. If she can’t see the school, classes are canceled. The school is also haunted. Lights are turned on at night and locked doors opened.

You may have noted the windmills in the Judith Gap sign. Check out the cattle at their base. There are 90 of the 40 story high monsters. They proved electricity to the 80 homes in Judith Gap plus another 360,000.

You may have noted the windmills in the Judith Gap sign. Check out the cattle at their base. (Tiny dots at the fence line right center— they may be antelope.) There are 90 of these 40-story high structures. They provided electricity to the 80 homes in Judith Gap plus another 360,000.

The Rocky Mountains viewed from Highway 191 in Montana.

When it comes to mountains, Montana is not shy. These are the Rocky Mountains.

Rocky Mountains in Montana.

Another view.

Rocky Mountains behind lake in Montana.

And another…

View of Rock Mountains in Montana.

And another.

Wood cutouts of wild animals in Sulphur Springs, Montana.

Peggy and I stayed at an RV campground in White Sulphur Springs that featured wild animal cut outs. I really liked this moose family with its reflection.

Peggy fed this one. Don't do this at home kids, Don't ever stick your hand in the mouse of an elk! :)

Peggy fed this one. Don’t do this at home kids. Don’t ever stick your hand in the mouth of an elk!🙂

Here is my mandatory old barn photo for this blog with its dramatic backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. I didn't feel that this barn was simply falling down. It looked like it was melting!

Here is my mandatory old barn photo for this blog with its dramatic backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. I didn’t feel that this barn was simply falling down. It looked like it was melting!

Mountain men played a key role in the westward movement, first as trappers and later as guides.

Mountain men played a key role in the westward movement, first as trappers and later as guides.

Did this guy just hear the election results? (Kidding) We watched this guy and another jump into the Yellowstone River— and come out alive. They had carefully waited for a policeman to pass.

Did this guy just hear the election results? (Kidding) We watched this guy and another jump into the Yellowstone River— and come out alive. They had carefully waited for a policeman to pass. I am reminded of a statement by Joseph Campbell. “When you find yourself falling, dive.”

The Yellowstone River in Montana.

The Yellowstone River

A final view for today's post. This one is near Bozeman, Montana. In my next post I will head south from Bozeman and into Idaho, another beautiful state.

A final view for today’s post. This one is near Bozeman, Montana. In my next post I will head south from Bozeman and into Idaho, another beautiful state.

 

 

The Squirrel… A Quickie

Ground squirrel robbing bird feeder on Applegate River in Oregon.

This little fellow is a master at stealing sunflower seeds.

I don’t know about the world, but I can certainly use some laughs. So I’ve decided to start publishing quickies on occasion, things that I find humorous,  and hope you will as well.

This fellow was impressive. Not only did he make a leap that Grey Squirrels find daunting, he had slipped through a hole that was designed to accommodate Chickadees. He did have one problem, however, and I found it hilarious. Ground squirrels are greedy fellows, right, and this one was no exception. He had filled his pouch with so many seeds that he couldn’t get out the narrow hole he had climbed in! And believe me, he tried— especially when I was getting up close and personal with my camera. Finally, he spit out his ill-gotten gains and escaped. I set my squirrel trap with lots of sunflower seeds. I knew he would be back, and given how smart he was, he would soon be gathering seeds in the feeder, spitting them over the edge, climbing out and retrieving them! I caught him and he had a lot to say to me. I can’t print them in my GP rated blog. He is now living down the road, over the bridge, on the other side of the river learning to eat dried black berries and grass seeds. He’s in good company. I have already resettled his great grandparents, grandparents, parents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins there. I wish him well.

There was no way he could get out of the cage with his bulging pouch!

There was no way he could get out of the cage with his bulging pouch! So he made the ultimate sacrifice, he spit out the seeds.🙂

North Dakota and the Sneakiest Dog in America… The 10,000-Mile Bike Trek

Peggy and I discovered this pair of Canadian Geese in their idyllic setting near Minot, South Dakota.

Peggy and I discovered this pair of Canadian Geese in their idyllic setting near Minot, South Dakota.

 

I’m back in the saddle again/Out where a friend is a friend/Where the longhorn cattle feed — On the lowly gypsum weed/I’m back in the saddle again. –Old cowboy song by Gene Autry

My brother-in-law John wanted to know when it might be safe to come back to my blog. I really like John: he’s bright, is a talented writer, has a wonderful sense of humor, and is great to travel with, not to mention he has a really neat wife.  But we avoid talking politics. So this one’s for you, John. I am back in the saddle again. (grin)

I only needed one hand to count the number of people I met traveling through the US and Canada who were on long distance bike treks. So when I saw a fellow bicyclist loaded down with gear coming out of North Dakota on Highway 2, I flagged him down.

“The state is relatively flat,” he informed me, “and it should have been easy peddling. But I fought a strong head wind the whole way. It was tough.” I couldn’t help smiling. I appreciated his difficulty; I’d certainly dealt with my share of nasty headwinds. A strong headwind for him, however, would mean a strong tailwind for me. I would fly across North Dakota.

“One more thing,” the cyclist had cautioned, “there is a really nasty dog about five miles up the road. Be careful.”

I’d shared my experiences of bicycling through Minnesota and we had chatted for a while longer. We then parted company with him cycling east and me west.

Fifteen minutes later, I discovered the headwind— going in the wrong direction. That’s the thing about headwinds in North Dakota. They are close to legendary among bicyclists. You are always bicycling into the wind; it doesn’t matter which direction you are peddling. I hadn’t traveled for more than 15 minutes when I felt the first puff on my face. It hassled me all the way to the Montana border.

No large, drooling dogs came charging out to eat me, however. So I felt like I had dodged at least one bullet. I was thinking happy thoughts when I felt an irritation on my right heel with each rotation of the pedal. Curious, I glanced back. “What the…” went bouncing around my skull! A large, drooling dog that looked suspiciously like a pit bull was running silently beside me trying to grab my right foot each time it came close to his snapping teeth. I had met the sneakiest dog in America! My reaction was instinctual. I grabbed my bike pump and swung it backwards with a fair amount of force— and was rewarded with a solid thump and a surprised yip! I had caught the miscreant on his nose. Problem solved. The last I saw of him, he was low-tailing it home. Maybe he would think twice before hassling another bicyclist. Or bite harder…

Besides the large dogs and headwinds, two other things struck me about North Dakota. The first was sunflowers, millions of them, all pointing the same direction. I found them beautiful. North Dakota has more of them that anywhere else in the US. When they are young, they practice heliotropism. And no, that isn’t some weird sexual practice. Their necks are flexible and they track the sun. Early in the morning they are looking east. By late afternoon they are facing west.

When Peggy and I travelled through North Dakota in early June, it must have been too early for the sunflowers. So I recruited one from our yard that was hanging out a few months ago.

When Peggy and I travelled through North Dakota in early June, it must have been too early for the sunflowers. So I recruited one from our yard that was hanging out a few months ago.

The importance of agriculture to North Dakota could be seen everywhere, as with these distant storage elevators. I also like this photo because it provides a perspective on how flat certain portions of the state are.

The importance of agriculture to North Dakota could be seen everywhere, as with these distant grain elevators. I also like this photo because it provides a perspective on how flat the terrain in North Dakota can be.

It was obvious that people had been farming in the state for a long time!

It was obvious that people had been farming in the state for a long time!

Large farming equipment could be found everywhere.

Large farming equipment was found for sale in most towns.

And some of it I really would not like to meet on a dark night.

Including some that I wouldn’t like to meet on a dark night..

As I travelled west, ranching became more prevalent. Windmills are symbols of the West.

As I travelled west, ranching became more prevalent. Windmills are symbols of the West.

Cow now have strong competition from oil wells out in western North Dakota. Peggy and I saw oil operations everywhere. This wasn't the case when I biked through in 1989. Fracking seems to be the prime way for getting oil out of the ground. Can earthquakes be far behind?

Cows now have strong competition from oil wells out in western North Dakota. Peggy and I saw oil operations everywhere. This wasn’t the case when I biked through in 1989. Fracking seems to be the primary way for getting oil out of the ground. Can earthquakes be far behind?

The second thing I remember was a massive storm that caught up with me in the western part of the state near Williston. I’d been watching the clouds gather all afternoon and they had morphed into towering cumulus clouds that threatened one hell of a downpour and possibly a massive hailstorm. It was nothing I had wanted to be caught out in, and nothing I wanted to face in my tent. The higher the clouds had climbed the faster I had pedaled. I’d whipped into the first motel I had come to on the eastern edge of Williston and begged sanctuary.

“Sorry,” the clerk had told me, “We’re booked up.” Some type of event was going on and all of the motels in town were apparently full. Owners were calling around looking for space. “I just talked to a motel across town with three spaces left. Would you like me to call?” I had quickly answered yes. “You are in luck,” the clerk smiled, hanging up the phone. “You have the last space but you need to hurry.” People in Williston who looked out their windows must have thought that the Tour de France had made a wrong turn.

I pulled up in front of the motel office and opened the door halfway. “We are booked up,” the owner had growled. The pit bull had seemed much friendlier and probably was. “Ah, but I have a reservation,” I had responded, sounding cheerful, giving my name, and explaining about the motel across town. He had sourly looked down at a note he had made.

“You can stay,” he said. “But I don’t like bicyclists.” Whoa, I had thought, welcome to Williston. I wondered if a bicyclist had trashed one of his rooms forever condemning all bicyclists to hell. “You have to leave your bicycle outside. If you take it into your room, I am kicking you out, regardless of the weather.” I saw him staring out the window of the office, watching as I locked up my bike outside. Shortly afterwards the storm hit: drenching rain, high winds and hail. It was a nasty night in a cheap motel that had long since seen its glory days. Around 10 p.m., I went outside and retrieved my bike, carried it inside and put it down on newspapers. I was up and out by six the next morning. The sun was shining.

Some more memories of North Dakota…

This is the pond with the geese in it that I featured at the top of the blog.

This is the pond with the geese in it that I featured at the top of the blog.

A one room school house along Highway 2.

A one room school-house along Highway 2. Modern wind mills can be seen off to the right in the distance. There is a lot of wind in North Dakota.

I discovered the geographical center of North America when I road through Rugby, North Dakota. It was still there when Peggy and I drove through. (grin)

I discovered the geographical center of North America when I rode through Rugby, North Dakota. It was still there when Peggy and I drove through. (grin)

Another small lake we found along Highway 2.

Another small lake along Highway 2. I really liked the tree border.

It was skies like these that sent me scurrying for Williston. (The town has now become a city due to the oil boom, but it has been having tough times since Oil prices dropped.)

It was skies like these that sent me scurrying for Williston. (The town has now become a city due to the oil boom, but it has been having tough times since oil prices dropped.)

A North Dakota stream in the western part of the state. Note the hills!

A North Dakota stream in the western part of the state. Note the hills!

I'll conclude with this tree that lives out west.

I’ll conclude with this tree that we found out west. It was outlined by the sun, which had broken through the clouds.

NEXT BLOG: It’s off to Montana and Big Sky Country!

Ten Lessons Our Children Learned from the Election

I’ve been a little neglectful on reading blogs and responding to comments the past few days. My apologies. America has just gone through one of the nastiest elections in its history. And the American people have spoken, in a way I never expected them to. I know they were voting their frustration, a frustration that was caused in many ways by the very same people they just voted back into office.There is a reason why our government has been so dysfunctional for the past eight years. It was grounded in just-vote-no-and-screw-the-consequences. Let the nation go up in flames rather than work together and compromise to build a better nation. Challenge where the President was born, regardless of proof, instead of meeting him half way across the aisle as he offered again and again. And never, never let him have a victory. Now these folks are saying don’t be bitter, we have to work together. Right.

Well, my sense of humor is a little low now, so I am feeling a little ouchy. One good thing I did see was that 18-25 year olds voted for Hillary in all but five states. Our future may be in good hands. I suspect we will be hearing from young people a lot over the next few months. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder what lessons our children have learned over the past year. I came up with ten.

Ten Lessons this Election Taught Our Children:

  1. Rudeness and bullying are okay. Being polite is for losers. Call people who disagree with you names. Call them criminals. Threaten to throw them in jail. Threaten them with lawsuits.
  2. Sexual harassment is okay. It is okay to denigrate women and seduce married women. Boys will be boys, right. Threaten to sue women who dare to complain, call them liars. Make sure that women are afraid to complain when they have been harassed or raped.
  3. Don’t worry about financial obligations. If you can get away with paying someone nothing or low wages, great. You are not bad, just smart. If worse comes to worse, go bankrupt and stiff all of the people who have worked for or with you. Again, that’s not being bad, just smart. Besides, it’s a great tax write off.
  4. In fact, don’t pay taxes, especially if you are wealthy. It’s not criminal; it’s smart. Let losers such as the middle class and low-income people pick up your share.
  5. Our military stinks. The solution is to fire all of our generals. Americans, such as John McCain, who end up as Prisoners of War, are losers. A smart person would have never been caught.
  6. A major solution to unemployment is to do away with environmental protection. Global warming is a myth. Let’s go back to coal as the solution to America’s energy needs.
  7. It’s perfectly okay to be a racist. Build massive walls around America. Send millions of Mexican Americans back to Mexico. Block people from Islamic countries from coming into America. Challenge where America’s first black president was born, again and again, regardless of proof. The innocent are guilty until proven otherwise.
  8. There is nothing wrong with a nation who once threatened our nation with nuclear destruction, who has been our sworn enemy for close to a century, and is once again reaching for world domination, to interfere with our political process in America. There is nothing wrong with a presidential candidate inviting such interference.
  9. There are no consequences related to lying. Truth is relative. If you are caught in a lie refuse to respond to the accusation and make the same lie over, again and again. Did you chop down the cherry tree? Hell no.
  10. Might makes right. Issues such as equal rights, equal opportunity, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion are secondary.

Enough, my friends. I promise to get back to blogging about bicycling through America and Canada in my next blog. I just have to tell you about the nastiest dog in America. —Curt

I Meet a Babe in Minnesota… The 10,000-Mile Bike Trek

 

This beautiful cove is found along Minnesota's scenic Highway 61 on the north coast of Lake Superior.

This beautiful cove is found along Minnesota’s scenic Highway 61 on the north coast of Lake Superior.

The Canadian Border guard glanced at my California driver’s license, smiled, and waved me through. How threatening could a guy on a bicycle be? It was a simpler time— a peaceful interval between America’s seemingly endless wars, before the onslaught of real and imagined terrorism, and before two good neighbors required passports to enter and leave.

The American Custom’s inspector was a bit more suspicious. They usually are. Maybe I was a pot-smoking hippie, an escapee to Canada from wars past. Middle-aged men were supposed to be busy working 40-hour weeks, knee-deep in kids and nose-deep in debt while supporting the American economy, not running away on six-month bicycle adventures. He had questions to ask. How long had I been in Canada, where had I traveled, what was my reason for being in the country, where had I stayed? I didn’t tell him about sleeping out along the highway or taking a bath in two cups of water. It might have been pushed him over the edge. Eventually he sent me on my way, grumpy that he hadn’t found a reason to declare me Un-American. I was just glad he didn’t make me empty my panniers. He would have discovered my very dangerous dirty socks.

I was sad to leave Canada. It had been an important part of my bicycle journey. I remembered the friendly people, the beauty of Nova Scotia, my first stumbling attempts at long forgotten French in New Brunswick, and the endless miles and wilderness of northern Quebec and Ontario. But further adventures waited. First up was a 114-mile ride along Minnesota Highway 61, a scenic road that parallels the north shore of Lake Superior from Canada to Duluth and is renowned for its beauty, a beauty that includes the lake, islands, quiet coves, crashing waterfalls, and one of the world’s most photographed lighthouses.

Overlook on Minnesota Highway 61 that provides a view of Islands in Lake Superior.

An overlook provided a view of islands in Lake Superior.

Old cabin on Minnesota's scenic Highway 61 along the north Shore of Lake Superior.

This old cabin was once someone’s beach front property on Lake Superior.

Lake Superior provided a storm-free days for me with small lapping waves, not the monsters that are known to roll across the lake in November.

Lake Superior provided storm-free days for me with small lapping waves, not the monsters that are known to roll across the lake in November.

A beach on the North Shore of Lake Superior.

Another example. The red rocks caught my eye.

The Cross River on the north shore of Lake Superior along Minnesota's scenic Highway 61.

Foaming falls on the Cross River just before it flows into Lake Superior.

The Cross River of Michigan just before it flows into Lake Superior.

The Cross River below the falls.

A view of Minnesota Highway 61, a great road for bicycling.

A view of Minnesota Highway 61, a great road for bicycling.

The photogenic Split Rock Light house poised on a ledge above a foggy Lake Superior.

The photogenic Split Rock Lighthouse poised on a ledge above a foggy Lake Superior.

Split Rock Lighthouse on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota.

And in the distance.

Lake Superior is indeed a superior lake. It contains 10% of the world’s fresh water, which is enough to flood all of North and South America to one foot in-depth. Surface-wise, it is the largest lake on earth. The states of Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire could easily be plopped down on top of it. Had I ridden my bike around the lake, I would have traveled some 1300 miles, an equivalent to 13% of my whole journey.

It’s so big that 40-foot high waves have been recorded rushing across its surface, sinking ships unfortunate enough to be out on the lake during major storms. Some 6,000 ships have gone down in the Great Lakes altogether, causing upward to 30,000 deaths— and the numbers may be much higher. Gordon Lightfoot memorialized one of the shipwrecks in his 1976 ballad, The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald. On November 10, 1975, the ship had encountered a massive storm with 35 foot waves on Lake Superior and been sunk, taking all 29 of her crewmen to a watery grave.

Fortunately the weather was beautiful for my bike trip. November gales were still months away. I had futzed along, taking a couple of days to enjoy the beauty and give my body a break from the 80-100 mile days I had spent peddling through Quebec and Ontario. I stopped a lot.

So did Peggy and I on our revisit in June. We admired the views and took photos. The picture taking was a bit iffy, however. My Canon Power Shot 100 had died in Ontario. “Use my camera,” Peggy had urged. But her Canon EOS Rebel was sick as well. It kept giving us an Error-99 message. We looked it up on the Internet. The problem was referred to as “the dreaded Error-99 message.” Apparently the camera gave it to any issue its software couldn’t diagnose. I babied the camera along, changing its battery, cleaning its terminals, and saying nice things to it, hoping it would last until we got it to Duluth. “We’ll get you fixed, sweetheart,” I promised, and she kept snapping pictures. (It was not to be.)

The camera made it (just barely) to Duluth. The city is actually a seaport for ocean-going ships that make the 2300-mile journey to and from the Atlantic Ocean via the Great Lakes Waterway and the St. Lawrence Seaway. It has had its ups downs, historically speaking, from boom to bust, but now it seems quite healthy. We passed some lovely old buildings including a snazzy high school in our search for a camera shop. I had found an Internet recommendation for one on the outskirts.

Central High School in Duluth, Minnesota.

I found it hard to believe that this beautiful structure was built originally as a high school in Duluth. They certainly didn’t build high schools like this in California. I’m thinking Harry Potter and Hogwarts!

The owner of the camera shop, a really nice guy who was being driven out of business by the same Internet that recommend his store, looked at our camera and said, “Uh-oh. You have the dreaded Error-99 message.” We laughed. What else was there to do? He took the camera apart, did what he could, put it back together, and snapped a shot out his window. Error-99 popped up on the screen.

I bought a new Canon G7X for the road. Peggy’s new camera is waiting for Christmas.

US Route 2 took me out of Duluth all the way to Grand Forks on the border of North Dakota. Cycling was relatively easy; the weather sunny. The highlights of my ride included throwing a rock across the Mississippi River and meeting a babe— a big blue babe about 15 feet tall with four legs and a tail. A sculpture of the legendary lumberjack, Paul Bunion, and his giant Blue Ox, Babe, is located in the town of Bemidji, Minnesota. Babe was so big, folklore tells us, that Paul used her to straighten out crooked logging roads by hooking her up to one end of the road and having her pull. When she had to scratch an itch on a tree, the tree would fall down and beg for mercy. Once she was pulling a water cart that sprang a leak. It created the Mississippi River! Statues of Paul and Babe are actually found in several locations in the US. (Peggy and I drove by one last week in the Redwoods of Northern California.)

A view of the Mississippi River as it looks in Northern Minnesota.

A view of the Mississippi River as it looks in Northern Minnesota.

A side view of the Visalia-Natchez Bridge across the Mississippi River with a barge passing under it.

The Visalia-Natchez Bridge I had used to cross the Mississippi River earlier in my trip when I had left Louisiana and entered Mississippi. Maybe Paul Bunion could throw a rock across it.

Another view of the Mississippi in Minnesota.

Another view of the Mississippi in Minnesota. Even I could throw a rock across this one.

Paul Bunion and his Blue Ox Babe in Minnesota. Peggy is standing next to Pau's leg to prove a perspective on size.

Paul Bunion and his Blue Ox Babe in Bemidji, Minnesota prove that Canada isn’t alone in creating large, humorous statues. Peggy is the tiny person standing next to Paul’s leg to provide a perspective on size.

Minnesota Highway 2 leads me into North Dakota, more stormy weather, and the sneakiest dog in 10,000 miles.

Next Blog: Minnesota Highway 2 leads me into North Dakota, more stormy weather, and the sneakiest dog in 10,000 miles.